One of the members of the team of Zambians who worked with me to build a ceramic kiln in Livingstone is sculptor Almakyo Banda. He was part of a team of artists responsible for the creation of a large public artwork near the center of town unique in its purpose and concept.
This interactive artwork is designed to inspire and invite the public to consider joining efforts for recycling in Zambia and helping to rid the city of unwanted plastic bottles.
With almost no individual redeemable value, plastic containers and bottles are awash in Livingstone like most other cities. Almakyo had the vision to create an artwork that invited participation in the needed clean-up by welding the elephant as an open structure so that it would become a drop-off center for collected plastic with the results of participation constantly on display.
I was inspired by this approach to using a public artwork for raising awareness about the need to solve an environmental problem through creative recycling in Zambia.
Starting a Compost System at WayiWayi
Being a lifelong disciple of Robert Rodale and the organic gardening movement, I take a my personal commitment to recycling and composting seriously. I can hardly remember a time when recycling kitchen scraps into compost was not part of my daily routine. I have witnessed numerous gardens transformed from weak, depleted soil to rich, productive loam by adding organic material to the mix. At home, I invite my neighbors to contribute by dumping grass clippings and fallen leaves onto my compost pile instead of giving them to the garbage collectors.
Flying into Livingstone, I was able to observe that this area of dry savannah struggles to support vegetation everywhere outside of the immediate river course. The soil condition of the compound at WayiWayi Studios is a mixture of clay and sand with very little organic material, so I was delighted when my suggestion was taken seriously that the bucketful of daily kitchen scraps the studio produces would be of great benefit to the trees and bushes.
In my experience, this change in routine will have immediate effects that will start slowly and build over time. Change in depleted or unnourished soil when humus is added starts on the microscopic level. As living organisms responsible for the breakdown of plant materials begin to grow, they attract other organisms and introduce a cycle of life that is beneficial, even critical to the healthy life of the plant.
I poked around in the soil at WayiWayi looking for the familiar signs of beneficial critters and was not able to find even one earthworm. One of the workers at the studio, Oscar, worked at a local hotel that used a worm decomposition system to deal with kitchen waste. He offered to get worms going at WayiWayi when enough humus had accumulated to support them.
The increase of vegetative matter as mulch to retain water and the simple act of recycling kitchen waste will create a healthy environment for worms (et al.) and lead to the kind of soil and lush vegetation that we imagine only existed in Eden.
(Originally posted on Russell’s blog, http://russinafrica.blogspot.com/)